“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” Romans 2:1-2
This is the 60th part in our study of Romans. Here’s what I wrote almost six years ago as we began our study –
“The Book of Romans is the “mountain peak” of the Apostle Paul’s inspired Writings. This great Book demonstrates the Power of God over sin and the astonishing efficacy of His Grace. Romans is Paul’s triumphant exposition about the truly amazing Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is through Romans that we learn about the sinfulness of sin and the Righteousness of God. We learn about the wrath of God revealed from Heaven against all sin. Paul writes about the extreme penalty for sin for all members of the human race and the extreme payment for sin by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is in Romans that we see the horror of sin and the honor of the sinless Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. God is the Judge of sin. Jesus is the Propitiation for that sin. We learn through Romans that God frees sinning slaves to become forgiven saints. God is Sovereign in all the universe and the Source of all Truth.”
As we move into the second chapter of Romans, my prayer is that God will speak powerfully through His words to our hearts and minds as we seek to understand this world in which we live and serve.
διο αναπολογητος ει ω ανθρωπε πας ο κρινων εν ω γαρ κρινεις τον ετερον σεαυτον κατακρινεις τα γαρ αυτα πρασσεις ο κρινων οιδαμεν δε οτι το κριμα του θεου εστιν κατα αληθειαν επι τους τα τοιαυτα πρασσοντας
It’s important to remember that chapter and verse divisions are not part of the original texts of the New Testament. They were added centuries after the apostles wrote their Gospel accounts and letters. The chapter divisions were added in the 13th century AD and the verses in 16th century.
What we read in the early verses of chapter two is a continuation of what we read in chapter one. The context to our current point would read like this –
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
As we move into Romans 2, we must remember that Paul is continuing to present evidence for his primary theme – that of God revealing His wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
Paul brings his many premises in chapter one to a logical conclusion at the beginning of chapter two –
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
This is Paul’s primary message to the Romans about the spiritual condition of the human race – they are “inexcusable.”
Remember what Paul wrote in chapter 1 verses 20-21?
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
It is human nature to “excuse” oneself. We often “make excuses” for our behavior, our attitudes and actions. We are often quick to “judge” others, but we “excuse” ourselves thinking that we are being reasonable, logical.
Paul’s message is clear that in God’s eyes, His judgment, we are “without excuse,” we are “inexcusable.”
The Greek word Paul used in Romans 1:20 and 2:1 is the same – ἀναπολόγητος (anapologétos). The word comes from the root ἀπολογία, which carries the idea of defense using logic and reason. Placing ἀ (no, not) before the word ναπολόγητος means that something does not have a logical defense. The human race is without any logical defense against the judgment of God. They are “without excuse.”
Paul’s logic continues with this statement –
“… whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
κρίνω (krinó) means “to separate, distinguish, choose, make a judgment.” The word was used for determining guilt or innocence, right from wrong.
κατακρίνω (katakrinó) intensifies the meaning of the word κρίνω and is translated as “condemn.”
Paul’s point in 2:1 is that a depraved sinner (who is without excuse) who judges another person actually condemns themselves. Why? “… for you who judge practice the same things.”
How can a person guilty of a crime judge someone who is guilty of committing the same crime? They can’t! Justice doesn’t work that way. It’s not logical, not reasonable, and that’s Paul’s point. The guilty party is not in a legal position to judge someone who is also a guilty party in the same crime.
So, how is it supposed to work?
“But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
Paul made an emphatic point that “we know.” The Greek word is οιδαμεν (oidamen) and carries the idea of grasping truth (reality) from physical sight. It means “absolute knowledge”
God is the offended party (e.g. Romans 1:18-25) and is in the position to make a judgment “according to truth.”
ἀλήθεια (alétheia) comes from the word ἀληθής (true in fact) and means “truth, reality.” God judges humans from truth-reality.
Our post-modern, post-Christian, post-truth, post-reality world is messed up. We make ridiculous excuses for our beliefs and behavior based on a lack of logic and reasoning. We think we are being logical and reasonable, but we are not.
God is the only Being who can make a judgment about the human race because He alone knows truth and reality. He judges “according to truth.”
Before we look at verse 3, let’s consider Paul’s audience at this point. We know from reading the Book of Romans, the Book of Acts and other ancient documents that the makeup of Christians in Rome included Jews and Gentiles.
One theory is that Jews started the church in Rome. Luke wrote in Acts that “visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes” were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and saw the Lord’s disciples and heard Peter’s sermon (see Acts 2:10 ff). Those Roman Jews and proselytes who believed in Jesus Christ and followed the apostle’s doctrine (see Acts 2:40 ff) may have continued to meet together when they returned home to Rome, thus starting the church at Rome.
How then were Gentiles added to the church at Rome? One theory is that the Jews and proselytes who believed in Jesus Christ preached the Gospel to Gentiles in Rome even as some did in Antioch (see Acts 11:18 ff). Another theory comes from an insight we have to the church in Rome from Acts 18 –
“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 18:1-4
We know from extra-biblical historical documents that the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled thousands of Jews from Rome at a time during his reign that works with the timing of Paul’s meeting Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth –
“According to the biographer Suetonius in Claudius, during a period of troubles Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome for a short time; Christians may have been involved.” Encyclopedia Britannica
“He banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.” C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Claudius, Alexander Thomson, Ed
Some scholars believe that the name Chrestus referred to Christ and the problem Claudius was dealing with was arguments between Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah and Jews who didn’t believe.
If all or most of the Jews in the church in Rome had to leave Rome during Claudius’ expulsion, then Gentiles in the church would have been in charge for what may have been several years. How would returning Jews interact with Gentiles in the church? We know from Romans 16 that Aquila and Priscilla had a church in their house in Rome prior to Paul writing his letter to the Romans in approximately 56 or 57 AD.
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” Romans 16:3-5
Many outlines of the Book of Romans contain these words for chapter two –
- The Jews (2:1–3:8)
- The Need Of The Jews (Rom 2:17-3:8)
I agree that Paul’s audience in chapter 2 has a special Jewish focus. We’ll see more as we move forward, next time.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.